More than 400 people demonstrated in Dublin city centre on Saturday over plans to build a hotel around one of the country’s most famous traditional music pubs.
The Save the Cobblestone procession was led by masked mummers in straw head pieces. These were followed by dozens of musicians who played jigs and reels as the crowd proceeded from Smithfield Square, along the quays, to O’Connell Bridge where a protest céilí was held.
It’s the second time in less than a month that people have demonstrated over the development of hotels at the Cobblestone pub in Smithfield and at Merchant’s Arch in Temple Bar.
Marron Estates Ltd has applied to Dublin City Council for a nine-storey hotel at 77-80 North King Street, which includes the Cobblestone. While the popular traditional music pub is a protected structure and would be retained as part of the proposed development, an outdoor area and back-room venue would be demolished. Almost 100 objections have been lodged with the council over the development plans while an online petition, Save the Cobblestone, has more than 33,000 signatures.
Méabh and Síobha Mulligan, the daughters of Tom Mulligan who has run the pub for more than three decades, say their family is “heartbroken” by the plans. While the front of the pub will be retained under current proposals, the whole building – which has acted as a “cultural centre” for decades – would be gone, they say.
“The pub is just a small part of all this,” said Síobha. “If you look up at the middle floors they are classrooms for Irish music lessons . . . we teach music in those rooms. There’s also language classes, not just Irish language but other nationalities have classes there.”
The development of so many hotels around the city is making Dublin “less and less appealing” to those who have grown up here, added Méabh. “Anyone our age has left Dublin, a lot of our friends who grew up here have gone to other countries because there’s nothing for them here.”
Musician Pádraig Mac Aodhagáin, who regularly plays in the pub, said the hotel development was “disrespectful to traditional music” and “an attack on the culture of Dublin”.
“Aside from the Cobblestone and one or two other places there’s not many venues in the city centre where you can just go and play a few tunes,” he said. “Temple Bar is more for tourists. Getting rid of the Cobblestone would effectively be the beginning of the end for traditional Irish music in Dublin.”
Manager of the Cobblestone Tómas Mulligan said he hoped Saturday’s protest would encourage more people to submit a formal objection to Dublin City Council before the deadline of November 4th. He disputes the assertion that the pub could continue to operate once the hotel is built. “It’s going to swallow up the pub, it’s gonna make it completely unviable. I’ve read the plans, the pub’s not going to be grand.”
Eoghan Ó Ceannabháin, a committee organiser with the Dublin Is Dying group, which helped organise Saturday’s march, says hotel development across Dublin is “sucking the life out of the city”.
“What’s really being sold to tourists now is shell of Irish culture. We obviously welcome tourists but if there’s hotels being built on their behalf while the people who live here are finding it difficult to live, that’s a major problem. We welcome everyone that wants to visit but one shouldn’t be at the expense of the other.”